Volunteer Abroad

9 Peace Corps Alternatives to Inspire You to Volunteer Abroad

The Peace Corps aren't the right fit for everyone. If the 2 year time commitment and selective application process doesn't work for you -- don't worry, you can still make a meaningful impact! Explore these 9 great (and flexible!) options to volunteer abroad.

Three volunteers smiling in front of a hill and body of water

If you've thought about joining the Peace Corps, you're not alone. More than 230,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps, helping communities across the globe in sectors as varied as education, health, youth development, environmental conservation, and more.

Many volunteers join for a number of reasons. For one, the Peace Corps offers financial benefits, like a $10,000 stipend after completion, to help you adjust to life back home. They can also provide assistance with student loans (which is a big reason college grads join the Peace Corps), cover medical and dental care while you're volunteering, and even offer opportunities for career support, like your TEFL certification.

However, despite these many benefits, the Peace Corps may not be a perfect fit for everyone. It requires a serious commitment of two years, a lengthy (and competitive!) application process, and a lot of hard work.

Below are some common reasons volunteers decide not to join the Peace Corps:

  • They're don't meet the age requirement: To volunteer with the Peace Corps you must be at least 18 years old.
  • They don't have a four-year degree: While it's not a must to obtain your degree, most projects will require it.
  • They can't commit the time: If being away from your friends and loved ones is a no for you, then you may want to consider more short-term volunteer options. The two year time commitment is a huge reason many opt out of the Peace Corps. Before serving, you will also be required to undergo a 3 month long period of training.
  • They don't know what they want to do: When you join the Peace Corps, you pick a sector and are then placed in the country that needs your help. For many volunteers, sticking to one sector and staying in one country for a long period of time can feel very daunting, especially if you're unsure with what you want to do and what you're passionate about. If this sounds like you, volunteering abroad with a short term program can offer you more flexibility and variety.

Even people who follow through with the application process may come to find that they can't pass the medical exams or aren't accepted into the program. There are lots of reasons why people eventually decide the Peace Corps isn't the best option for them. If you're in the same boat, just know it's totally fine -- There's still many opportunities to volunteer abroad.

Alternatives to the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is far from your only option. When it comes down to it, the Peace Corps is about cultural connection and understanding; it's about building meaningful relationships in communities around the world and setting those communities up for success moving forward. These same goals can be achieved through a number of different volunteer abroad programs, over different time frames, in different countries around the world.

Some programs require you to commit to a year, while others are more short-term and only require a week or two. With all of these options, you're bound to find one that's the perfect fit for you. Here are some of our favorites.

Read more: Best Volunteer Abroad Programs for Young Professionals in 2022

1. Best for community engagement: GVI

Photo by Lina D., GVI: Volunteer in Laos Alum

Program length: 1-24 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations, airport transfer, some meals, some activities

Whether you're interested in marine conservation, education, sustainable development, public health, women's empowerment, or everything in between, there is a program for you with GVI!

Additionally, their programs run from one week to a year or more, so regardless of how much time you have to commit, you're sure to be able to fit this into your schedule. They even have online programs which offer participants maximum flexibility.

"The fact that GVI are so well respected within the local community just goes to show the extent of the impact that GVI are creating, and it was amazing to be a part of the positive work going on."

Elizabeth

Program Details

Program:
GVI: Volunteer in Thailand
Provider:
GVI
Location:
Thailand
Starting Price:
$500.00 USD
4.93 Rating
based on 91 reviews
  • Impact 4.85
  • Support 4.9
  • Fun 4.9
  • Value 4.8
  • Safety 4.9
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2. Best for sustainable change: SAVE Volunteering

Photo by Julia A., SAVE Volunteering Alum

Program length: 2 - 6 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations in a hostel, meals, transportation, 24hr support

When it comes to the Peace Corps, nearly 45% of all volunteers are placed on the African continent, so if you're thinking of going to one of these 54 countries you're not alone! SAVE Volunteering, headquartered in South Africa, places volunteers throughout the continent, in South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia and Kenya. Their volunteers work in education, wildlife conservation, community development, construction, and more. And as they put it, "Stay for two weeks, two months or two years."

Truly there is no experience quite like it, I grew so much as a person and learned so much about the world around me. The connections I made have made me into a new person, South Africa will always have a very big piece of my heart!

Hailey

Program Details

Program:
SAVE Volunteering Humanitarian Projects
Provider:
SAVE Volunteering
Location:
Multiple Countries
4.82 Rating
based on 114 reviews
  • Impact 4.7
  • Support 4.75
  • Fun 4.65
  • Value 4.8
  • Safety 4.8
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3. Best for adventure: Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures

Photo by Dan R., Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventure Alum

Program length: 2 - 4 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations in a hostel, meals, activities, transportation

If you find yourself most interested in working in environmental conservation, then Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures might have a program for you. Their mission is to "connect people with nature" and they offer placements in environmental conservation in Malaysia. These programs are great for folks who have busy schedules and don't have too much time to commit to volunteering, as they run from two to four weeks.

"It was definitely eye-opening as it was also hands-on. It was a good combination of volunteer work and relaxation, as you get some downtime to go snorkeling at Perhentian's beautiful and clean waters or just relax by the beach. I had an amazing time and I would definitely recommend anyone to join."

Rachel

Program Details

Program:
Volunteer Conservation Projects in Malaysia
Provider:
Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures
Location:
Malaysia
Starting Price:
$886.00 USD
4.86 Rating
based on 81 reviews
  • Impact 4.55
  • Support 4.9
  • Fun 4.8
  • Value 4.65
  • Safety 4.8
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4. Best for flexibility: Maximo Nivel

Volunteer wearing yellow helmet and ziplining through trees

Program length: 1 - 52 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations with host family, meals, activities, airport transfer, transportation, 24/7 in-country support, Spanish tutoring

Want to volunteer for a week? Totally possible! Want to volunteer for 50 weeks? Also possible! By volunteering with Maximo Nivel, participants will have the opportunity to contribute to exciting projects like turtle conversation or teaching English, in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru and volunteer for however long their heart desires!

"From the friends I have made, to the strangers on the street, I've met so many incredible people with their own beautiful stories. I have had the most incredible experience, and I can't put into words how wonderful my trip has been."

Marley

Program Details

Program:
Volunteer in Guatemala with Maximo Nivel - Best Rated Projects
Provider:
Maximo Nivel
Location:
Guatemala
Starting Price:
$665.00 USD
4.92 Rating
based on 157 reviews
  • Impact 4.75
  • Support 4.95
  • Fun 4.8
  • Value 4.8
  • Safety 4.85
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5. Best for support: IVHQ

Photo by Nour Y., IVHQ South Africa Alum

Program length: 1 - 24 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations, meals, activities, airport transfer, transportation, 24/7 in-country support

If you're not ready to commit two years to the Peace Corps, then a flexible program with IVHQ may be a better option. IVHQ offers a wide variety of safe, impactful, and supportive programs across 50+ destinations, like Bali, South Africa, and New Zealand, and their programs start at just one week and can run up to 24 weeks or more. They offer projects that run the gamut from elderly care to NGO support to refugee support, and everything in between.

Their programs are focused on providing meaningful change to local communities and the environment, while also giving volunteers the opportunity to immerse themselves in culture, meet new friends, and feel supported while abroad.

"The diving instructors on the programme were incredible. They were supportive and patient with the various diving experience of all the volunteers and made me feel at ease. This experience has inspired me to continue volunteering in marine conservation and explore other projects through IVHQ."

Amy

Program Details

Program:
Most Affordable & Trusted Belize Conservation Volunteer Programs
Provider:
International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ
Location:
Belize
Starting Price:
$1,025.00 USD
4.94 Rating
based on 16 reviews
  • Impact 4.6
  • Support 4.95
  • Fun 4.95
  • Value 4.5
  • Safety 4.9
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6. Best for unique experience: Pacific Discovery

Photo by Kristen L., Pacific Discovery New Zealand & Fiji Alum

Program length: 4 - 12 weeks
Price point: $$$$
What's included: accommodations, meals, activities, airport transfer, transportation, 24/7 in-country support, visas, global medical rescue insurance, access to itineraries and tour guides, optional trip extensions

Pacific Discovery offers immersive service-learning trips across the globe for summer and semester-long adventures. These experiential educational opportunities are focused on six core components: educational travel, service learning, cultural and language immersion, sustainable adventure travel, outdoors and wilderness exploration, personal and leadership development. Their programs run four or 10 weeks and have the option for independent extension. These projects are ideal for students or recent grads who are interested in traveling in a more structured environment.

"During the nine weeks we saw so much, did so much, and learned so much, challenging ourselves in ways we could not have anticipated. Together we marched for animal rights, lived in remote Hmong villages, trekked through rice fields, kayaked through caves, bathed elephants... I was constantly pushed to step out of my comfort zone, to think deeper and to ask more questions."

Sadie

Program Details

Program:
SE Asia GAP Semester Program | Pacific Discovery
Provider:
Pacific Discovery
Location:
Multiple Countries
Starting Price:
$14,495.00 USD
4.88 Rating
based on 32 reviews
  • Housing 3.8
  • Support 4.9
  • Fun 4.8
  • Value 4.85
  • Safety 4.85
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7. Best for variety: DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage

Photo by Brittany C., DAKTARI Alum

Program length: 1 - 8 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations, meals, activities and trips, airport transfer, transportation, internet and telephone charges

DAKTARI, located in the South African bush near Kruger National Park, aims to "educate and inspire children to value their environment and stimulate community projects." As a volunteer, you would work with local children in environmental education while also caring for animals in the orphanage. Both short and long-term positions are available, allowing most volunteers to find an option that suits their needs.

"I will recommend DAKTARI to anyone that want a life changing experience, with both animals and children, in a pleasant environment. I have now so many good memories at camp and during the excursions, but also animal and nature knowledge."

Delphine

Program Details

Program:
Volunteer with Children and Animals in South Africa
Provider:
DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage
Location:
South Africa
Starting Price:
$670.00 USD
4.94 Rating
based on 66 reviews
  • Impact 4.85
  • Support 4.95
  • Fun 4.9
  • Value 4.85
  • Safety 4.95
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8. Best for immersion: Amigos de las Americas

Photo by Janae S., Amigos de las Americas Ecuador Alum

Program length: starts at 3 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations, meals, activities and trips, COVID-19 tests, transportation

When you volunteer with Amigos de las Americas, you'll have the opportunity to meaningfully immerse yourself in Latin America. Whether you volunteer in Uruguay or Ecuador, you'll have the opportunity to live with a host family and learn Spanish while participating in service-learning activities. You could be helping to build farms, produce artisan goods, work on micro-lending projects, or even start up a hair salon. These projects run for summer, semester, and full year terms.

"Being someone who is very passionate about social and environmental justice, this program taught me so much. Getting to learn from the locals about how they are implementing sustainable practices in their everyday lives was inspiring and gave me so many new ideas about ways to live more sustainably when I returned home."

Sydney

Program Details

Program:
Authentic Service and Immersion in Costa Rica
Provider:
Amigos de las Americas
Location:
Costa Rica
Starting Price:
$4,375.00 USD
4.89 Rating
based on 37 reviews
  • Impact 4.75
  • Support 4.85
  • Fun 4.75
  • Value 4.65
  • Safety 4.9
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9. Best for personalization: Volunteering Solutions

Volunteer feeding a giraffe

Program length: 1 - 24 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: accommodations, meals, 27/7 in-country support, airport transfer, transportation

Volunteering Solutions has been helping high school and college students volunteer around the world, in exciting countries like the Philippines and Costa Rica, for the past 14 years. They offer a wide variety of programs, focused on projects such as healthcare, teaching, women empowerment, conservation, and much more. The programs are also flexible, with participants given the option to choose how long they spend abroad, which is perfect for volunteers with a busy schedule or looking for something short-term!

"I had one of the most enjoyable months of my life in Cape Town, South Africa. It was a wonderful experience to meet so many like minded volunteers from all around the world.

Camila

Program Details

Program:
Volunteer in South Africa | Most Affordable Projects From $350
Provider:
Volunteering Solutions
Location:
South Africa
Starting Price:
$350.00 USD
4.96 Rating
based on 24 reviews
  • Impact 4.5
  • Support 4.7
  • Fun 4.55
  • Value 4.8
  • Safety 4.5
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There's a volunteering adventure for everyone!

Finally, don't discount the value of volunteering in your own backyard. Whether it's volunteering with a local organization or working with federally-funded programs like Americorps or Teach for America, volunteering domestically can have a very meaningful impact as well.

Whether you decide to do a volunteer vacation or commit for life, know that there are plenty of options for everyone who is interested in making an impact through service, whether at home or overseas.

Ready to volunteer abroad? Get started with these reads: